We live in a time where being politically correct is considered to be more important than showing empathy. Organizations and workplaces alike are more concerned with not saying the wrong thing than saying something at all. It is so important for these entities to recognize the importance of recognizing the needs of their constituents.
As a Black woman in the workplace, you often bear the responsibility of inciting the cohesiveness necessary to have these discussions. However, you also find yourself teetering the line between passion and frustration because it’s so easy to be penned as “an angry Black woman”. Meanwhile, you’re just pouring your heart into the cause you’re championing because you want to be heard. Better yet, you need to be heard!
I’ve never wanted preferential treatment because of the color of my skin. I’ve always wanted to be seen as equal and treated as such. However, it has been my expectation in all of my social and professional circles that humanity would prevail. When you are sick, people give hope and wish for you to feel better. When you experience death, you are given condolences and you’re handled with gentle hands. When you experience a mental health crisis, folks want all of their “thoughts and prayers” to be with you.
Why is this any different? We are literally mourning the livelihood of Black and brown people as we know it. When we leave our workplaces and the spaces where we are well-known, we are seen just the same — Black. Our souls cry out from the pain our people are experiencing. Yet, there is little to no acknowledgement of the effect this is having on us as a people. Just because we may not have personally known George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, and the endless list of Black people who have perished at the hands of cruel people doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect us.
At this point, you might be wondering what you can do to change this narrative. Here are some suggestions for how you can demonstrate your support and let your humanity shine through in this dark time.
Listening is one of the best things you can do. While some Black people have mastered the art of functioning regardless of what is thrown at us, we are still suffering from generational oppression. I guess you can call us the functionally oppressed. After generations of being told and shown that we don’t matter, the last thing we need is to be told how to feel. It is critically important that you listen to understand, not listen to respond — or defend.
It is easy to think that what is happening is not affecting your friends, coworkers, employees, or anyone else you know that’s a person of color. Here’s the thing — we are all affected. A simple “How are you feeling?” goes a long way. You don’t need to entertain an entire discussion about racism, prejudice, or the latest Black person to die at the hands of law enforcement. You just need to show those people in your life that you care enough to ask. Being Black is not a prerequisite to ask a Black person how they feel about the open season on their race. It is basic humanity.
Just like being Black is not a prerequisite to show empathy, it’s not a prerequisite to speak up either. Throughout history, there have been many initiatives to show support for people who need it. Women’s Rights, voting privileges for non-violent felons, compensation for NCAA athletes, and equal pay are just a few that come to mind. However, there always seems to be pause when it comes to Black lives. Why is that?
When you see something, say something. If you see an article that has the words you want to say — share it. If you see a tweet that drives the point home — retweet it. If you see a post on Facebook or Instagram that depicts your feelings of alliance, circulate it. It doesn’t take much and humanity depends on it!
At the end of the day, we have so much more work to do. Society has proven time and time again that Black voices alone cannot spread this message. What’s happening today is no different. The voices of people from all walks of life are needed. This is not the time to adhere to the age-old adage that says “silence is golden”. Our current climate requires you to use your voices, your privilege, your influence, and anything else you have that commands attention.
Use your voice!